FOR NEARLY A decade, the National Park Service (NPS) has invited history buffs and curious hikers to visit Battery Townsley, a former pillar of military technology strategically situated in the Marin Headlands. Throughout World War II the battery (which never actually saw battle) housed as many as 150 soldiers at a time, the men undergoing rigorous training to operate the giant newfangled guns located there. The once-monthly 45-minute hike to the bunker — by way of the Coastal Trail, beginning at the Fort Cronkhite parking lot — has gained popularity in recent years with the installation of a 16-inch-caliber, 120-ton, 68-foot-long gun reminiscent of the two weapons originally installed in the casemate in 1940. Guests are invited to partake in tours led by park rangers and dedicated volunteers who, according to NPS’s Alexandra Picavet, travel from as far as Stockton to share their knowledge with battery guests. Expect wartime posters, fun facts (the two battery guns were capable of shooting 2,100-pound projectiles 25 miles out into the Pacific; the walls vary from 5 to 13 feet in thickness) and the chilling (literally) experience of wandering around an enormous wartime bunker. Open the first Sunday of each month, noon–4 p.m.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “History Hike.”